By Robert Israel
The IRNE event did what it has done for decades: cast a warm glow on a vibrant local theater scene and those who are dedicated to entertain, astonish, and inspire.
It is an annual rite of spring. Last night, from the dais at the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) ceremony in Brookline, I joined fellow judges to hand out awards for excellence in local theater. I surveyed a boisterous crowd of revelers: thespians, directors, choreographers, lighting and set designers, publicists, and sundry well-wishers who represent the wide range of large, mid-size, and fringe theater companies in greater Boston and New England. Admission is free. All come to share their passion for the stage (and to guzzle spirits from two cash bars).
IRNE welcomes all comers, from the grand to the minuscule. The judges encourage dialogue, and we take action on issues. At the 22nd IRNE ceremony, a former IRNE critic was asked to resign amidst allegations he had sexually violated a young male actor. This year, bickering revolved around whether a jukebox musical — Moulin Rouge, which ushered in a new era for the lavishly renovated Emerson Colonial Theatre — should have been included among the nominees. Several attendees voiced opposition; others heralded the pick. (Broadway in Boston brings in a vigorous roster of national touring productions, and they have been among the nominees for many years.) My take: among the 54 categories, IRNE can surely consider the merits of these shows, too, and view them as viable contenders.
The IRNE awards afford me the opportunity to greet many in the theater community I would not otherwise have a chance to talk to. As a reviewer, I see dozens of shows each year (Is there a “theater season”? More like a Mobius strip of productions asking to be reviewed). The ceremony is not only about celebrating achievement; it is also an opportunity to mourn losses (veteran IRNE critic Guy Giampapa died at age 91 last month). And to welcome arrivals to the theater scene, such New Rep’s new artistic director, Michael J. Bobbit.
The usual rumblings (and pesky white noise from a faulty sound system) aside, the IRNE event did what it has done for decades: cast a warm glow on a vibrant local theater scene and those who are dedicated to entertain, astonish, and inspire.
Robert Israel writes about theater, travel, and the arts, and is a member of Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.